Category Archives: #miched

A Thankful Educator

Hit the Pause button.

Forget for a moment the public scrutiny, governmental interventions, unfunded mandates, and the myriad of other stress-agents that surround educators. Forget changing standards, new curricula, and standardized tests.

Remember (even if just for today) the real reason that you entered the field of education. Remember the real driving force behind all meaningful student learning; the relationship between a caring educator and their students.

Last week, out of the blue, I received a text message from a former student, who I taught in Georgia (I now live in Michigan).

Zack: Is this Chris Ming?

Me: Yes, Zack it is.

Zack: Will you be in Michigan for Thanskgiving week?

Me: Yes I will

Zack: How far away are you from Detroit?

Me: About 40 minutes

Zack: No way! Well me and Spencer are coming up to Michigan for Thanksgiving break and we were wanting to see if you maybe wanted to grab lunch while we are up there to catch up and see you.

Me: Where are you going to be? It would be great to meet up!

We were able to set up some time together yesterday for lunch in Greektown and I got to hear all of the great things that are going on with Zack and Spencer. I was humbled that these great young men wanted to spend part of their holiday with a teacher and coach that they had not talked to in four years. They reminded me why what educators do matters and provided me with a new energy for my job.

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From left, Spencer Tafelski, Chris Ming (me), Zack Shusterman in Greektown Detroit after lunch November 25, 2015. Spencer and Zack were students and soccer players that I had the privilege of working with four years ago in Loganville, Georgia

 

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the meaningful relationships that make learning possible. The relationships that make an impact on young people’s lives. I am thankful for all of the educators out there that make connections with young people. You won’t find these connections in any legislation, standards, or evaluations. But it is these connections that create the environments conducive to learning. These connections create the opportunity for all students to be great.

Educators everywhere, never forget the impact you make everyday in the lives of your students.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Why Educators Should Connect

In a couple of weeks I will have the pleasure of sitting on a panel with some phenomenal educators at the MACUL conference in Detroit. The topic of our panel is why educators should connect. In preparation for that panel, this is my formalization of the random thoughts that I have coupled together since being invited to join.

A few years ago I was a classroom teacher and one of my best friends in the school was next door. We shared a wall and we shared a passion for chemistry, but it dawned on me one day while we were talking in the hallway during a class change that I did not know much about John as a teacher. Sure I had heard his voice through the walls on a frequent basis (and I’m sure he and his classes had heard mine) but I didn’t know much about his instructional technique nor his relationships with students or any of the other important aspects that make a teacher effective. At that moment it occurred to me that education is an isolating profession.

It is funny to think about a job that involves standing in front of 30 people at a time and talking as being one that is isolating. The reality, however, is that while teachers and school administrators talk a great deal, the majority of that conversation is small talk amongst peers or instructional toward students. There is very little dialogue about pedagogy or the sharing of ideas and technique. Most educators, whether they choose so voluntarily or do so sub-consciously are confined by the four walls of their room or office and do not engage in the types of conversations that allow them to grow. This is precisely the reason why educators should seek to connect!

There are many roadblocks that inhibit educator connections. Roadblocks like increased accountability, more school responsibilities, and a lack of time and money for common planning and professional development are a few of the obstacles that prevent connecting. Now more than ever, however, it is important for teachers and administrators to combat these potential land mines and find ways around them in order to reap the benefits. The reality of education at the moment is that there are many outside influences that are looking to derail the progress that schools make on a daily basis. These voices that exist from the outside looking in heap a very negative vibe onto schools. Connecting with the positive energy of dedicated educators is a powerful tool for overcoming the naysayers.

Stepping out of the classroom both literally and metaphorically is a necessary step toward educator progress. Technology has changed our society and has made making connections much easier, but it is not the only necessary ingredient for progress. The most important necessity is a desire to connect, the want to. This internal motivation is what pushes through the obstacles on the path and leads to connections with others, that leads to ideas and reflection, and ultimately progress in classrooms and the school.

I’m not sure where my principal at the time, Dr. Nathan Franklin, found the idea but in my last year at Loganville High we started stepping out of our classrooms. Teachers were asked to go observe other teachers, their peers, in the classroom. This wasn’t an evaluation exercise, it was an expansion exercise; one in which we could start seeing our peers’ strategies and start having conversations. It was an idea that lead to an exercise in breaking down obstacles and building connections.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the first teacher on my list to observe and learn from was my good friend John.

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Envisioning Schools of Tomorrow

Schools do not look the same as they did 100 years ago; nor should they. The buildings in which we educate our youth should change as the needs of society change. These buildings should change both structurally and intellectually. In my previous two posts I discussed my educational philosophy and the need to shift the focus of learning. What follows is my vision of what schools in the future will look like.

The major premises that my vision for the future of schools are based on:

  • Today’s school buildings do offer some “unwritten” advantages that pay dividends in personal development of students
  • Learning through the use of technology is not going away, but does not replace the value of a good teacher
  • Knowing where to find information and what to do with that information has become a higher priority than the information itself
  • A school, and education in general, is a means of creating an opportunity for something better.

There are inherent advantages in schools as they are currently configured. They are a microcosm of society, for better or for worse, and provide a relatively safe environment for young people to learn the roles of society…how to interact with others, forming relationships, conflict resolution, etc. These lessons that exist outside of the curriculum are fully missed through online education.

That, however, brings me to the second bullet point, technology is not going away. As a high school administrator I have seen students leave my school to jump on the bandwagon of online school. Unfortunately, the transition from all brick and mortar to exclusively online is a difficult one for many students. My vision for the future is a blended effect across the board. Schools would become much more wired than they are now with a much more liberal plan for electronics usage.

With a more blended environment it is going to be important for schools of the future to provide the proper structure for success. I envision a slew of new classes developing that will teach basic tech uses, proper research and citation process, digital citizenship (and digital presence), time management, focus strategies, unplugging sessions, etc. All of these new classes would become a mandatory part of the curriculum that would provide the tools needed to construct a future education in preparation for life in the “real-world”.

All of these factors combined bring me to my final vision for future education; information gathering and usage will be measured and will lead to greater flexibility and choice for students. My radical twist for the future of education is the breaking down of the current class length requirement currently set at semester or trimester and instead a focus on standard proficiency. Through blended learning students would be able to complete courses early and move on to other areas of interest faster or conversely have the ability to spend more time in areas of need. Grades, in essence, would no longer be the assessment of student learning, but rather, students would need to be able to use the material learned in class and apply it in order to prove proficiency. Standard proficiency would lead to advancement and diving into material at a deeper level.

Schools of the future will look different. My vision for schools creates choice and eliminates the students that “know how to play the game”. By blending learning and shifting our focus, schools will be a place of choice and opportunity that will prepare students for what lies ahead.

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